After beginning the season with a hard-fought road victory against the division-rival Indianapolis Colts, the Jacksonville Jaguars will shift their focus this week to the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs with a chance to make a statement in their home opener.
Mahomes and company bested the Jags two times last season, including a 27-20 loss in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs, which sets this game up as a revenge opportunity in Jacksonville. Not only that, but it’s also a chance for this talented Jacksonville team to prove they’re ready to take a step towards the NFL’s elite in 2023. With the news of Chris Jones and Travis Kelce set to make their season debuts for K.C., the Jaguars will get their shot at a Chiefs team at full strength, which is likely how this team would prefer it.
If the Jaguars are going to pull off the upset at Everbank, the team will need some key players and units to play a major role. Here are the three biggest X-factors for a Jacksonville Jaguars victory in Week 2.
With Chris Jones ending his holdout and returning to the Chiefs, the Jaguars’ already-hobbled offensive line is going to have its hands full. Last season, Chris Jones caused all sorts of problems for the Jaguars in both contests, and considering the state of the interior of the offensive line at the moment, it will take a complete effort along the front.
Brandon Scherff and Luke Fortner were limited in practices this week with injuries but have since been cleared to play Sunday. Both players, along with Ben Bartch at the other guard spot, are going to be huge when it comes to the offense’s success against this talented Chiefs defense. If those three can open up lanes for Etienne while maintaining their responsibilities in the passing game, then that just makes the jobs of the two young tackles that much easier.
A clean pocket for Trevor Lawrence is the biggest key to victory for this team on Sunday, so the offensive line needs to come to play.
"[Trevor Lawrence] joins Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts as the only quarterbacks to post elite 90.0-plus grades from a clean pocket."https://t.co/pAStfzz8wW— Gus Logue (@gus_logue) July 26, 2023
While everybody’s attention was focused on the spectacular return of Calvin Ridley in Week 1, Christian Kirk’s quiet week kind of flew under the radar. The team's leading receiver from a season ago had just one catch for nine yards on three targets in the victory. Trevor Lawrence and the Jags' passing attack focused more on feeding Ridley and Zay Jones as they consistently found open space in that Indy zone defense.
Doug Pederson commented on Kirk’s usage at his presser on Friday and discussed his potential impact this week considering the Chiefs’ man coverage tendencies.
“Christian thrives a little bit in some of the man type schemes. So last week was just the way the defense is. It wasn’t for not trying to get him the football, the ball just went other places. You know, he’ll get his opportunities in this game.”
Pederson’s comments are backed up by Kirk’s production against the Chiefs in both contests last year. Kirk was targeted a whopping 26 times in those two games, and he was able to reel in 16 of those for 157 yards and three touchdowns. His ability to win in man consistently makes him such a threat in this game, especially when you consider the attention Ridley is going to demand after what he did last week. If Kirk can continue his impactful play against the Chiefs on Sunday, Lawrence could be in line for a big-time game.
Chiefs fans are likely well aware of Andre Cisco heading into this one. In last year’s Week 10 showdown in K.C., Cisco had a couple of jarring hits that home fans took exception to, which led to him being a talking point ahead of their rematch in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs last season.
Fast forward to Sunday and Andre Cisco has a chance to be one of the biggest X-factors on the field for the Jaguars. The third-year safety should be aiming to continue his tone-setting ways by playing with physicality when he gets downhill, while also doing his part in attempting to cover Travis Kelce. If he’s able to make his presence felt early in this one, it could speed up what the Chiefs want to do in the passing game, which favors the Jaguars. His impact is key for the defense.